Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Flour Difference...

The story is all too common; you're in the middle of baking when you read a recipe and it calls for a special kind of flour.  Having no clue what the difference is, you scoop in the regular all-purpose flour.  Then the oven timer goes off, and to your dismay, you find the results are less to be desired.  Most home bakers don't make the correlation that they may be using the wrong type of flour!  After reading this article you will be educated enough to understand that the flour in a recipe makes all the difference.

The most important thing for the baker to remember is that some wheat is hard and some are soft.  This knowledge will help you recognize what flour to use for a given product.

o     Hard Wheat:  Contains Greater quantities of glutenin and gliadin (proteins), which together form gluten when the flour is moistened and mixed.

o     Soft Wheat:  Contains less protein than hard wheat, which in return results in less gluten structure in the finished product.

Gluten is the most important aspect of what we understand as flour.  In yeasted breads, flour made from hard wheat is desired as the developed gluten is what traps the CO2 made by the yeast and creates what we know as "rising".

In cakes, muffins, biscuits, and cookies flour made from softer wheat is desired; this is because we want a tender, moist product.  While we do want some gluten structure, too much gluten structure may cause an effect called "tunneling"; this is when gaping wholes form due to too much gluten. 

Gluten is formed by adding moisture to flour; it is developed by kneading and/or mixing.  In yeasted products, the development of gluten is imperative; this is why we knead bread. 

On the other hand, cakes, muffins, and cookies we want to inhibit gluten from developing.  This is why we add the "dry mixture" or flour at the end; it is imperative to only mix the flour until combined; in other words, not to over mix.

The Anatomy of a Wheat Berry
It is important to understand the anatomy of a wheat berry if we are to truly understand each type of flour available for purchase.  Hard wheat and soft wheat contain the same components; Bran, Germ, and Endosperm.

o     Bran:  The hard outer covering of the kernel.  It is present in whole wheat flour as tiny brown flakes, but it is removed in the milling of white flour.

o     Germ:  The part of the kernel that becomes the new wheat plant if the kernel is sprouted.  Its high fat content causes whole wheat flours containing the germ to turn rancid quickly.

o     Endosperm:  The starchy part of the kernel that remains when the bran and germ are removed.  This is the portion of the wheat kernel that is milled into white flour. 

So what does this mean for you?

Whole Wheat Flour: It is comprised of all three components of the berry.  It is simply ground into flour.

"Wheat White Flour": You can often find this in stores.  It is the germ and endosperm.  The bran is filtered out.
White Flour: 100% endosperm.  The bran & germ are filtered out.

Protein Content of Different Flours
As stated above, the amount of protein in the flour determines the level of gluten that is present when moisture is added.  The higher the protein content, the more gluten is formed.  The lower the protein content, the gluten that can be developed is less.  All-purpose flour is simply a mixture of soft and hard wheat to create a protein content in the middle.

**Note: Protein content varies by brand of flour.  These percentages are merely averages of popular supermarket brands.

Cake Flour: For specialty cakes such as chiffons and angel food cakes.  Some recipes are formulated specifically for the use of cake flour, the recipe will state "cake flour" if it is to be used.
Substitution for Cake Flour: There is no substitute for cake flour.

Pastry Flour: Pastry flour can be used for muffins, cookies, quick breads and pie crusts.  Typically, it can be used anywhere you would use all-purpose flour.
Substitution for Pastry Flour: Pastry flour and all-purpose flour can be used interchangeably without compromising quality.

All-purpose Flour: See Pastry Flour Above.

Bread Flour: This is used for yeasted products that rely on a moderate to moderate-heavy gluten development for structure.  Most bread recipes call for bread flour and should not be substituted.
Substitution for Bread Flour: 1 cup bread flour = 1 cup all-purpose flour + 1 tsp. gluten powder.  Gluten powder is concentrated gluten protein that can be added to all-purpose flour to make up the difference in the protein deficiency to make yeasted bread products.

High Gluten Flour: A flour with an extremely high protein content.  Used specifically for pizza crusts and bagels.  Some artisan breads may also call for high gluten flour, however, rare.  This product is often difficult to purchase for the home baker.
Substitution for High Gluten Flour: While there is no substitution for high gluten flour, it may be necessary to substitute 1 cup high gluten flour = 1 cup bread flour + 2 tsp gluten powder.

 Whole Wheat Flour:  Made by grinding the entire wheat kernel, including the bran and germ.  Protein content is dependant on the type of wheat the flour was made from. 

Self-Rising Flour:  White flour to which baking powder and sometimes salt has been added.

So that's all folks!  The Flour Difference...

Remember, there is no replacement for the correct ingredients.  You will become a pro and your guests' will shout...

Smacznego!  This Meal is Tasty!

1 comment:

  1. Wow....Great Information! I never realized there was a significant difference between flour. Thanks for posting. Looking forward to reading future posts!